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Organ and tissue donation law in Scotland

The law around organ and tissue donation in Scotland is changing.

In July 2019, the Human Tissue (Authorisation) (Scotland) Act 2019 gained Royal Assent. The legislation sets out an opt out system of organ and tissue donation for transplantation. From autumn 2020 if you die in circumstances where you could become a donor and have not recorded a donation decision, it may be assumed you are willing to donate your organs and tissue for transplantation. This is commonly referred to as an ‘opt out’ system and will apply to most adults resident in Scotland.

You still have a choice if you want to be a donor or not when you die, and you do not have to wait until autumn 2020 to make this decision.

The best way to record your donation decision is by registering either an opt-in or opt-out decision on the NHS Organ Donor RegisterIf you do not record a decision, it may be assumed that you are willing to become a donor. Your family will always be asked about your latest views on donation, to ensure it would not proceed if this was against your wishes.

Certain groups will be excluded from this new legislation.

Prior to donation, certain tests are carried out to check if donated organs or tissue can be matched to a suitable recipient. These tests help to ensure that transplantation is likely to be safe for the recipient and increase the chances of successful transplantation. Without these tests donation may not be able to proceed.

These typically include blood tests, urine tests and x-rays. These are a routine part of the donation process and if you haven’t opted out of donation it will be assumed that you are willing for them to be carried out. These tests will always be discussed with your family before they are carried out.

What do I need to do?

  1. Record your donation decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register
  2. Tell your family and friends what you have decided

Your choices

Register to become a donor

If you want to be a donor, you should register to be a donor (opt in) on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Register not to become a donor

If you do not want to be a donor, you can register not to be a donor (opt out) on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

If you don't record a donation decision

If you don't record a donation decision (opt in or opt out) it may be assumed that you are willing to become a donor. 

Updating your details or decision

If you have already registered a donation decision, you can update your personal details, reaffirm your decision or update your decision on the NHS Organ Donor Register.

Nominating a representative

It is not possible to nominate an appointed representative to make a donation decision on your behalf under current Scottish law.

Tell your family and friends

It is very important that you discuss your donation decision with your family and friends so they can support your decision. 

More information

More information about how organ donation works in Scotland is available on the Organ Donation Scotland Website.



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